From the Sports Editor: Steady progress keys Brengle’s superb year

Brengle-2Ten years ago, when she won her first professional tennis title, Madison Brengle seemed like she might be on the fast track to stardom.

The Dover native was only 15 at the time.

It turned out, though, that Brengle had a more circuitous path in front of her.

“Some players, they shoot up the rankings really fast,” said Gabby Brengle, Madison’s mother and coach. “And some players are more like a turtle. She’s been more like the turtle.”

Slow and steady, though, has gotten Brengle to a pretty impressive place.

Now 25, she’s had the best season of her career.

Despite losing a three-set match in the third round of the U.S. Open on Friday, Brengle’s Grand Slam success in 2015 was unprecedented for her.

Playing in all four of tennis’ biggest tournaments in the same year for the first time, Brengle posted a record of 5-4 in Grand Slams. She had been just 1-5 in the main draw of those events in her career before this year.

While reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open and then her U.S. Open run were the highlights, Brengle has done plenty of other good things this year.

Of her 25 career WTA victories, 19 have come this year. Just before the Australian Open, Brengle reached her first WTA final, at Hobart.

After winning a total of $560,677 in her career before this season, she’s won $403,880 this year alone. Of course her No. 35 world ranking earlier this year was also a career high.

And remember, this came after some tough times last fall. Brengle had a spot of skin cancer removed before doctors also found a mass in her jaw.

“I lost some sleep over that during the off-season,” Brengle was quoted in a story on tennis.com. “I really, really lost some sleep. I started going to nighttime Pure Barre (workout) classes so I would be so tired that I would just be able to fall asleep. Stress does weird things to your body.”

In August, Brengle even helped the Washington Kastles win their fifth straight World Team Tennis crown as a replacement for injured star Serena Williams.

Brengle told the Washington Post she “cherished every minute of it since” being asked to fill in. She handed played yeam tennis since 2011.

In a match against the Austin Aces, Brengle even won the title-clinching game for the Kastles, hitting a two-handed backhand winner to decide it.

“It was so exciting when I put that last point away,” she told the Washington Post. “I don’t think I could ask for anything better. It was so exciting and so much fun being out there. The team was so into it. The crowd was amazing.”

But if all of this feels like a crescendo to Brengle’s tennis career, her mother would like to think her daughter still has more big things in front of her.

“She still has a long way to go,” Gabby said earlier this week. “She’s not content like, ‘Oh, this is it.’ She still wants to get better.

“Hopefully she just keeps getting better,” Gabby added. “There really isn’t a time frame. You do it when you do it.”

Ready for some football?

The high school sports year officially kicks off on Thursday when Sussex Central High hosts Laurel at 7 p.m. in one of the DFRC Blue-Gold Kickoff Classic games.

Also on Thursday, you can read stories about each of the Henlopen Conference’s 14 football teams in our special season preview section.

The section will be part of Thursday’s edition of the Delaware State News and will include plenty of schedules and other information to get you ready for the fall.

There are a number of new head coaches in the Henlopen this season, including at Caesar Rodney (Dan Candeloro), Indian River (Phillip Townsend), Milford (Shaun Strickland), Polytech (Stanley Burris) and Seaford (Dwayne Henry). All are first-time head coaches.

Candeloro, a 15-year assistant coach at CR, said it’s definitely a different feeling being the guy in charge now.

“It is new to be in the delegation role,” said the former Delaware State standout. “Instead of being the guy who’s receiving the tasks, now you’ve got to give tasks out. And people are asking me questions instead of me asking questions.

“Schoney (former coach Mike Schonewolf) did a good job mentoring me and getting me ready.”

Keeler still going strong

Former Delaware coach K.C. Keeler and his Sam Houston State team open the season ranked No. 4 in Division I FCS football.

Keeler led the Blue Hens to three national championship games, winning the title in 2003. Just as he did at Delaware, Keeler talked about winning national championships when he was hired at Sam Houston before last season.

“Understanding this generation, I felt that I would lose that team if I starting talking about rebuilding,” Keeler was quoted in a recent interview on the school’s website. “Rebuilding is for cowards. It’s the easy way out.

“My whole thing is about winning championships. That’s why I came here. I wanted to win sooner (rather) than later and do it with the guys in the room now. When you have that sort of attitude, it captures their imaginations. And they start believing they can do it.”

The Bearkats reached the FCS semifinals a year ago in their first season under Keeler.

Including junior-college transfers, Sam Houston has 27 college transfers listed on this year’s roster.

Odds & Ends

• Wesley College kicks off its first season as a member of the New Jersey Athletic Conference next Saturday when it goes to Frostburg. We’ll have our season preview on the Wolverines in Tuesday’s paper.

• Ray Peden, who works as a 60-year-old lifeguard for the Rehoboth Beach Patrol, recently won his age group in the Open Water Masters National Championships in Lake George, N.Y.

The retired Delaware State Trooper. completed the 2.5K swim in 37:33.0, almost four minutes faster than the second-place finisher.

• The Caesar Rodney High field hockey team faces a particularly tough start to its schedule. After hosting St. Mark’s on Saturday, the Riders face perenial Henlopen power Delmar and four-time state champion Cape Henlopen in a three-day span.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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